Friday, January 1, 2021

IS PHOTOGRAPHY WITH FILM A THING OF THE PAST?


By Heinz Richter

A while ago a reader questioned that Leica continues to manufacture film cameras.  The opinion was that in this world of digital photography, it would be too costly to continue to make film cameras, especially ones with the level of quality like Leica.

Of course, the writer is wrong.  Leica does indeed continue to make film cameras, both the Leica M-A and the Leica MP and the rumor is that Leica will introduce a less expensive analog Leica M model.  It is easy to think that high end film cameras are a thing of the past.  Both Nikon and Canon websites do no longer list any film cameras.  Does that mean that film is a thing of the past?

Definitely not.  Film continues to have an avid following.  That is the very reason why the Leica film cameras are still being made.  Unlike with many other makes of cameras, especially Leica enjoys a faithful film shooter following.

That made me think of my own film cameras of which several are sitting on my shelves, waiting to be used.  I have to admit, I haven’t shot a roll of film for a long time and just about when I am ready to keep it that way, I come across an article by Ricky Opaterny that makes me think about film again.

He too hadn’t been shooting film for several years.

... So last week when I had the chance to shoot a couple rolls of film with a Leica M7, I wasn’t expecting much, having not shot any film since 2004.

 
Leica M7
Photo by Ricky Opaterny

That caught my interest.  I have never shot with the M7.  My M6 was the last film Leica that I shot film with before changing to digital.  Ricky continues...

A few years ago in the New Yorker, Anthony Lane described the sound of a Leica shutter as a seductive kiss. I had never handled a film Leica M series camera before last week, and I have to say that Lane’s ostensibly cheesy observation is dead-on. After I loaded my first roll of Kodak Portra 400VC in the camera and advanced it a couple frames, I thought there was something wrong with the shutter. “Why isn’t it making more noise?” I asked myself. Seduction begins with a little mystery, I suppose.

 
This man sat next to me to watch the Spain vs. Germany game at the soccer store on Haight
Photo by Ricky Oparterny

That mystery eludes me.  Probably because I have owned a Leica since my dad gave me one for my 5th birthday.  After all those years, I have learned what the Leica can do for me.  Shooting with that camera is no longer a mystery but it has proven to be a thoroughly professional tool.

Handling the camera was great. It just feels absolutely right when you’re holding it. And I had mounted on it my favorite lens of all time, Leica’s 50mm f/2.0 Summicron.

One of the great things about the Leica M cameras is that you can shoot them at very low shutter speeds—even with the 50mm lens, I can reliably get shots as slow as 1/10 second. It’s like having a faster lens or better high ISO performance or just, generally, an extra stop! This comes in quite useful indoors where light is usually low. With the exception of the first shot, I don’t think any of these were taken at speeds above 1/50 of a second. Normally, on an SLR with a 50mm lens mounted, that would be the minimum shutter speed that someone could expect to use—here, it was my maximum shutter speed.

I have to agree.  I have never shied away from using a Leica at relatively slow speeds.  I suppose this is one of the reasons why I think that the current quest for ever higher ISO capabilities of digital cameras is a wasted effort to some degree.  But to each his own.

Ricky makes special mention of the Leica viewfinder.  He considers it easily the brightest viewfinder of any camera.  He is right.  Another advantage of the Leica bright line viewfinder is that it always shows more than the area covered on film.  This allows seeing and observing the scene past the edges of the image area.  It allows the photographer to become more aware of his surroundings, something that no SLR camera ever offered.

 
I even liked the images that showed more of the film grain
Photo by Ricky Opaterny

Because I was shooting film—expensive film that would need to be developed at additional cost—I was patient waiting for shots I was anticipating. I tried to avoid wasting a single frame. I spent more time thinking about what I was doing rather than blindly snapping away.

That comment definitely made me think.  I used to take the same deliberate approach, and I still do so when shooting digital.  But I must admit that digital makes it oh so very easy to take a machine gun approach to photography.  The gratification of instant frame review allows you to do so without any cost penalty.  I especially  take this deliberate approach when doing studio shoots, especially with product photography.  There it eliminates a lot of trial and error shots to get things right.

Shooting, with a Leica, as many others have noted, makes you slow down. It makes you more careful about composition and exposure. And shooting with film compounds those effects. In general, I’ve spent the past few months trying to regain two abilities I feel I’ve lost in the Internet age—that to be patient—to delay gratification—and that to concentrate on something for an extended period of time.

Digital photography conditions us to expect instant gratification, providing us with instant previews of our images. In some cases, this is useful and helps us get the shot we wanted. However, more often it’s simply a distraction from doing the thing we should be focused on—taking photographs. Is there any other activity in which people so immediately evaluate their performance with such scrutiny as photographers checking the LCD image previews on their cameras?

 
The bruschetta was very good
Photo by Ricky Opaterny

It isn’t just the process that blew me away; the results were awesome. I waited with anticipation for the local lab to develop and print my film. What would it look like? What surprises lay in store? I can say that I felt my patience was rewarded. Even though their content is boring, the prints I got back from the lab had a contrast and vividness that makes them look not only unlike digital images, but cinematic in a way that I absolutely love—rich, textured, almost tactile. Unfortunately, getting to that result means paying a lab for developing and printing, which is why I don’t think I can shoot exclusively on film.

I wholeheartedly agree and it makes me think all the more to get some film, load one of my film cameras and shoot.  Of course that brings up the question of what film to use.  My main interest is black and white.  Therefore I don’t think I will bother with color film.  My favorite black and white film used to be the Agfapan APX 25.  Unfortunately that is no longer available.  Then I switched to Efke KB 25 which was later available as the ADOX CHS 25.  Unfortunately, to my knowledge nobody offers an ISO 25 film at the moment.  Of course there are times when ISO 25 just isn’t enough.  For those times I occasionally used Agfapan APX 100 or later the Efke KB 100 or the ADOX CHS 100.  But my favorite higher speed film is without question the Ilford XP-2 Super.  It has the advantage of an ISO range from 100 to 800 without the need of any exposure or development compensation.  However, at the lower speeds it does display noticeably finer grain.  This allows the user to switch between higher and lower ISO indices on the same roll of film and thus assure the finest possible grain under varying lighting conditions.  XP-2 super is a chromogenic film meaning that it must be developed in C-41 color chemicals, like all standard color films.

 
Watermusic
Photo by Heinz Richter
Leica M6, 50mm f/2 Summicron
Agfapan APX 100

Melanie
Photo by Heinz Richter
Laica M6, 50mm f/2 Summicron
Agfapan APX 25

Lou Bellami
Penumbra Theater, St. Paul, MN
Photo by Heinz Richter
Leica M6, 135mm f/2.8 Elmarit
Ilford XP-2 Super at ISO 800
Stage lighting

Don Stolz
Old Log Theater, Excelsior, MN
Photo by Heinz Richter
Leica M6, 50mm f/2 Summicron
Ilford XP-2 Super at ISO 800

Tecco
Former Principal Violinist St. Paul chamber Orchestra
Photo by Heinz Richter
Leica R4, 28mm f/2.8 elmarit
Ilford XP 2 Super

Reggie Anderson
Artist
Leica M6, 135mm f/2.8 Elmarit
Agfapan APX 25
Reggie

I guess this should be enough for myself to shoot some film.  Now I just have to decide which film and which camera to use.  Maybe I will be back here at a later date for a report.


For the complete article by Ricky Opaterny go to: Rediscovering film with the Leica M7



For other articles on this blog please click on Blog Archive in the column to the right

To comment or to read comments please scroll past the ads below.

All ads present items of interest to Leica owners.

_______________________________________________________________________

Woman wears brown elk-leather camera strap around her shoulders.
      www.eddycam.com        

      



The next Tamarkin Camera auction is
November 14, 2020 

Buy vintage Leica cameras from 
America's premier Leica specialist 

 http://www.tamarkin.com/leicagallery/upcoming-show



Click on image to enlar
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography
Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

 

6 comments:

  1. The Ilford XP-2 film sounds very interesting. Is it possible to achieve even higher speeds with push processing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately not. I have tried to have it push processed at a professional lab and the results were not good. There was no appreciable increase in speed over ISO 800, and the shadow detail was very bad. ISO 800 is definitely the limit.

      Delete
  2. Since the Agfapan APX 25 is discontinues and no other ISO 25 films are available, what do you recommend for fine grain, black and white films?

    ReplyDelete
  3. A very capable film is the Ilford Pan F Plus with ISO 50. It could never quite match the Agfapan APX 25, but it is a whole stop faster at ISO 50. When I wrote the article, I was not aware of the Rollei RPX 25 film. With it there is a ISO 25 film which, if I am not mistaken, is based on the Agfapan APX 25 and should render equal results. There is also the ADOX CMS 20 II film which is advertised as the sharpest, most fine grained and highest resolving film on the market. But it is a high contrast copy film which requires a special developer to render continuous tome images.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, film is dead. I'll take those useless Leicas off your hands...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the offer, but this is not necessary, I switched to digital Leicas.

      Delete